Real World Retouching Practices: What Do I Charge For Maternity, Boudoir and Infant Retouching?

I often receive emails from friends and strangers asking if I could recommend a retoucher for a particular job. Sometimes it’s just a portrait, sometimes a series of shots, and sometimes those potential clients are looking for a retoucher for an ongoing collaboration.

I have just received an email from a friend, fellow photographer from North America. She was asking if I knew a retoucher who could do, I quote:

retouch a maternity/boudoir/baby image in about 3 minutes, there are normally 30 images in a set… so I guess that would be 1.5 hours (or $2.50 per image at $50/hr). I don’t need high end magazine-quality work, just under/side eye wrinkles, pimples, etc.

I personally don’t do this type of retouching or batch editing, so I don’t know if this is even doable. I can’t imagine how one can do a color-correction, wrinkles, pimples retouch in 3 minutes per image, and she also admits that babies’ skin is the WORST to retouch with discolorations, pimples, dry skin, skin flakes, etc.

But I also couldn’t just state that it isn’t doable, because, like I said, I’ve never dealt with this type of work. And, because she is a friend, I would like to help her.

So, I decided to ask this question in our Retouching Academy community group, and here are some of the answers our members posted, that I think are worth saving here on our blog for more retouchers to see.

You can read the entire thread and the rest of comments in our community group: RETOUCHING JOBS RELATED QUESTION TO ALL!



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Nico Socha from Germany has also mentioned some ballpark numbers, which is usually the type of information beginner retouchers are struggling to find:


We all go through times that we have to take on whatever jobs that come our way, even if they are too cheap, that’s understandable. Especially in the beginning of our career. But we also must understand, that by doing that we together bring down the market. We set ourselves for a failure by educating our potential clients that our time and efforts are worth peanuts.

And one important point, that Nico Socha brought up –  you also have to remember to add taxes on top of your hourly rate. For example, in the USA a sole-proprietor pays about 35-40% of the income to the government. So, at the end of the day, whatever we make, we give away almost a half of it in the form of taxes, PayPal fees, credit card fees, etc.

We also pay for our Creative Cloud subscription, for our utilities, so our computers and tablets can function and we can work in our offices and home-offices. We have to buy expensive tools, screens, tablets, color calibrators, etc. We have to eat, buy gas for our cars, pay rent.

If you are a full time retoucher ALL OF THIS comes from your retouching jobs. Can you afford a decent living if you spend hours of work retouching $2.50 images (from which you will have to subtract 50% in taxes later)? 

Don’t work for cheap. Respect your time, your energy, your own name.

Another thing you should also consider is the amount of work you actually need to get done to sustain yourself and your business, when accepting cheap jobs. For example, you can be very busy retouching hundreds of images for $2.50 per and make a few hundred dollars. Or you can retouch 3 images for $150-300 and spend your free time marketing your services, finding better clients, mastering your skills, investing time into developing your better portfolio.

What scenario do you prefer? Being slammed with cheap jobs, or make the same money with just a few well-paid jobs, and have a lot more time on your hands to take your craft to even higher level?

Instead of wasting your time on a cheap job that doesn’t do anything for your portfolio, your skills or your career, find a photographer who shoots what you would love to retouch on a regular basis and for good money, and ask to do retouch a quality image for them for free. Feel up your portfolio with great work, so that you don’t attract cheap clients.

When you spend your time on retouching strong images for your portfolio for free – you are in fact investing your time into your portfolio. When you spend your time on retouching whatever images for a few bucks, you’re wasting your time on something that does nothing for your portfolio and your career as a retoucher for that matter.



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